With Hollywood churning out big films every few weeks they need to employ a regiment of PR people to make sure you know exactly what is out there and how good it is. Of course this means there are hundreds of overlooked films from both past and present just waiting to be discovered. Some are pretty awful, but the diamonds in the dirt are well worth watching.
So here's five films that you probably haven't seen that you really should. They may even add some wonder to your life that you hadn't realised was missing.
Not the Neil Gaiman penned fantasy. I've not seen that. What I'm talking about is the early 70s David Essex starring rock movie. Now, forget everything that you think you know about Essex. Forget his move from pop star to light entertainer. Forget his stint in Eastenders, where he undoubtedly played some minor villain with a heart of gold (everybody in Eastenders is a minor villain with a heart of gold, if you accept the BBC's version of reality then everybody born within the sound of Bow Bells is a bit tasty but 'looks after their own')
Most of all forget that sitcom where he lived on a barge.
In his early days David Essex did some really interesting work. 'Rock On' is one of the weirdest singles ever released (Genuinely. Check it out on Spotify, it's just plain odd). He was the best thing on Evita, he did that Imperial wizard single which is more than slightly bonkers.
But above all he starred in two great films; 'That'll Be The Day" and "Stardust", That'll Be The Day is the climb to fame, the early days of British Rock'n'Roll, all holiday camps and easy sex, bands forming and splitting, friendships formed and marriages destroyed. Essex is a gimlet eyed chancer, willing to sacrifice every mundane reality of his life for a shot at the big time.
Stardust though, Stardust is the epic. It's the prog rock opus to That'll Be The Days snotty punks. It's the fame that he found and exactly how hideous it is. He's a lost soul floating through a drug addled haze of notoriety, inhabiting a looming, soul destroying castle that his fame insisted on the acquisition of.
He ends in breakdown live on national television, overdose and death. It's not a cheery film but it's brilliant.
Slade in Flame
The seventies other great British rock film. Slade, at the height of their fame, took the standard pop route of filmic cash in. Created by Elvis, improved by The Beatles, continued by just about everybody thereafter, deranged somewhat by The Monkees 'Head'. In the 70s it was an easy opportunity for the burgeoning glam scene, Bolan went dream like for 'Born to Boogie' with Ringo Starr moving from his teddy boy supporting role in 'That'll Be The Day' to behind the camera for this mix of Mad Hatter's tea party and Wembley concert footage. I'm fairly sure there was a major Gary Glitter movie at the time as well but the less said about that ....
Slade's film was unlike any other slice of pop cinema though. They played a (lightly) fictionalised version of themselves in the story of a band's rise to fame and the discovery that it wasn't what it was cracked up to be (seeing a theme here?)
It's full of band members stabbing each other in the back, dodgy managers, wannabe gangsters and assorted hangers on leeching from the success. It's dark, nasty, horrible and truer than any other music movie ever made.
Coupe De Ville
A wonderful little American film from 1990 that isn't, and never has been, available on DVD. Alan Arkin is an aging father who sends his three sons on a cross country trip to pick up the car of the title. The car is obviously unimportant. This is really about a dad who is forcing his estranged ones into bonding with each other. There are misunderstanding, falling outs, fist fights and (obviously) reconciliation. And a hell of a lot of discussion of the true nature of the lyrics to 'Louie Louie'.
There is but one negative to this lovely little film. Alan Arkin's aging, reflective father character is 50. I am now Alan Arkin.
Originally a BBC production that gained theatrical release, this is a thoroughly American story based in historical fact. Set in the 50s, a screenwriter, unemployable due to the McCarthy witch hunts, flees the States for England rather than testify in front of the House un-American affairs Committee. He finds work writing for children's television but is forced to confront both the political climate and his own past when his childhood friend (an obvious Errol Flynn figure) takes his own life. Clearly the witch hunt is influential in this action but to what extent? It's an intriguingly English set slant on a slice of American history and, again, Im damned if you'll find it anywhere.
My Favourite Year
And another Errol Flynn caricature. This one captured brilliantly by Peter O'Toole at his most magnificently debauched. O'Toole is Allan Swann, a washed up movie star due to appear on a major television show in 1955. A young staff writer is assigned to look after his hero in the run up to broadcast. Obviously disaster ensues.
Everything in this is transparent; the show is Sid Caesar's 'Your Show of Shows', the staff writer, Benji Stone, is a combination of the film's writer Mel Brooks and another young writer from the era, Woody Allen. Peter O'Toole plays Peter O'Toole as much as he plays Errol Flynn.
It's charming and warm, crackles with the sharp, snappy dialogue that you would expect from Brooks at his best and the theme tune is Hoagy's Carmichael's 'Stardust'. What's not to love?